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Flash memory gets security spec

Five electronics makers unveil a guideline for flash memory that's intended to help allay security concerns and encourage consumers to use portable devices for mobile commerce.

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A group of electronics manufacturers is looking to expand the uses for removable flash memory cards with a new security specification.

Five companies known as the 5C announced on Thursday the creation of the Mobile Commerce (MC) Extension Specification for flash memory cards. The companies--Hitachi, Ingentix, Matsushita Electric Industrial, SanDisk and Toshiba--hope the security specification will push removable flash memory cards beyond just devices for storing digital content to secure depositaries for personal information, such as medical records or bank account information.

The companies are hoping that the security specification will provide more consumer appeal for the cards helping to continue the growth of the removable flash memory card market. The specification can be used in all the different major flash memory card formats, including CompactFlash, Secure Digital, and Memory Stick, according to Wes Brewer, spokesman for SanDisk.

There are several card formats in the market, but incompatibility has led to some consumer confusion. Being format agnostic gives the specification momentum, said Alan Niebel, analyst with research firm Web-Feet Research. Niebel also stressed that security is a big hurdle for the proliferation of flash cards in mobile devices.

"Security is what is needed for flash cards to be used in mobile apps like cell phones and Internet-enabled PDAs," Niebel said. "What this specification means is that no one will be able to capture sensitive information when it is being transferred wirelessly or if a consumer loses a card, a stranger won't be able to access that information."

Research firm IDC estimates that worldwide revenue for flash card market totaled $920 million in 2001 and will grow to $2.6 billion in 2006. Members of the 5C are hoping that the security specification will encourage mobile device owners to use flash memory for mobile commerce.

"The new spec allows credit card companies to offer their services to customers that want to securely use those services in mobile devices," said Wes Brewer, spokesman for SanDisk.

Card makers will license the specification from the 5C. It will be completed and available to the public by October.

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